Magic 13: 30 Years of Thrash Punk from Suicidal Tendencies

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Mike Muir has come a long way since founding the thrashmetal-skatepunk band Suicidal Tendencies over 30 years ago. He is a husband and father of three. He has recovered from two successful back surgeries and has a really zen approach to his sunset years on stage. But don’t for a minute think that Muir has gone soft. He does things his way or not at all, and that’s the just way his fans like it.

Suicidal Tendencies take the stage Saturday, April 25, at the Welcome to Rockville Festival at Metropolitan Park. The two-day event also features Slayer, Ministry, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Korn, Breaking Benjamin, Slash, The Pretty Reckless and more.

Muir has survived the evolution of life in a punk band alongside the hardcore fans that have grown up with him. For many of them, ST was their first concert. They recite ‘Institutionalized’ word for word and yell, “All I wanted was a Pepsi,” when they run into him after the show. Many of them now bring their own kids to share in the experience.

He remembers one young girl breathlessly approaching him for an autograph after a Francisco show. “She said ‘thank you so much. My mom just loooooves you. And I paused and she said ‘well, I love you too, but my mom has been loving you a lot longer.’ I just thought it was hilarious,” Muir says.

The road traveled has not been without its bumps and bruises. Mike Muir is not only the founder of the band but the only original member left. He underwent his first back surgery in 2005 and another in 2013. During that period, Suicidal Tendencies didn’t record any new material. “I didn’t want to put anything out and look like this was our last record on the death bed,” he says. “Like here’s this cripple walking up to the microphone. He’s still alive.”

Muir is known for his trademark bandana and ST shirts emblazoned with the number 13. So it was fitting when he joked that if ST didn’t put out any new music in 13 years then they weren’t going to do it ever again. “One of our friends actually brought that up, so I said I guess we’d better figure it out. That’s what we did, and it’s all been a good experience,” he says.

“It lets people who haven’t seen us in a while see us again and reminds them why they love the band and reminds the people that hate the band why they hate it and gives the chance to people who haven’t seen us before. We fell in love with what we we’re doing all over again. To have the ability to say no with great conviction was a great thing to do.”

Muir says the band has come full circle since releasing their latest record aptly named 13 on March 26, 2013. Suicidal Tendencies was founded with a certain degree of freedom as the pioneers of the skate thrash scene at a time when no one else was doing what they did. That attitude was reflected in their contract which gave ST complete creative control over their material.

“It basically said that we didn’t have to submit anything for approval. We gave them the artwork and the record, and if they had a problem with it, we were free to go anywhere else,” he says. “We were able to put out the record called “Feel Like Shit…Deja Vu” when at the time in ’89, people were freaking saying you can’t do that. It was like ‘actually, we can’. If the stores don’t want to carry it, that’s fine.”

ST maintains the ability to explain themselves in their own words and on their own terms rather than defending themselves to critics that just don’t get it. “When we first did it, we weren’t thinking if it was going to sell or not, because we just didn’t care. It was more like ‘this is what I like’. So many people from so many different perspectives were telling me how it was wrong or how much better it would be if we made it more like this, giving us all these examples of other bands. We should sound like this band or that band. I said ‘I don’t want to sound like them. I don’t like them’,” he says.

“Too many people are looking around like a tennis match trying to figure out what to do based on what someone else likes and too scared to stand up and say, ‘nah, I don ‘t think so’. People talk about the first Suicidal record as a punk rock classic, but we were voted “Worst Band” and “Biggest Assholes” because we were different. All the punk fanzines said we were terrible. Time has a way of changing things.”

Muir muses at the current roster of bands that must fit within the boxes designed by the industry execs. Equally confusing to him are the fans that only support a band because of the label manufactured to sell that brand of music.

“They are a skate band but I don’t skate. They’re a punk band, and I’m a punk. They’re a metal band, but I’m not metal. I’m in a thrash band. All the ways that someone can categorize that go out the window, and it becomes music. Is it something you like, and is it believable? I think that’s where we come off well,” Muir says. “We’re not just going through the motions. We get up there and work. For us, we’re not the old band that’s there so you can relive your past. We’re there to kick your ass.”


About Liza Mitchell